Celebrating 95 Years of Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror

I’m a big horror fan, as you well know. I’ve been watching horror movies since the early ’80s, maybe even a little longer. So how is it that I’ve never seen Nosferatu? I’m not sure. I decided to rectify that oversight by sitting down to watch the movie last night on what just so happened to be its 95th birthday. Boy, am I glad I did. What an experience! Let me tell you all about it.

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror was directed by F.W. Murnau and stars Max Schreck as Count Orlok the vampire. The film is based on Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, even though the production company couldn’t officially obtain the rights. It was released in Germany without authorization from the Stoker estate on March 4, 1922. The producers changed things like vampire to Nosferatu and Count Dracula to Count Orlok in an attempt to avoid legal wranglings. The Stoker estate sued and a German court ordered all copies of Nosferatu destroyed. Fortunately for horror fans, the film survived and has since become an early silent classic.

They’re coming to get you, Barbara. Er… Ellen.

What can I say about Nosferatu? It’s definitely creepy. The Gothic score is suitably dark and moody. There’s something about the acting and the makeup in silent horror films that’s over the top and it’s really effective. It’s certainly the case here. Alax Granach, in particular, as Knock delivers an unnerving performance. The visual style is grim. There are no sparkly vampires here.

He’s my, uh… cousin

I can see the influence the film had on modern cinema. An early scene had me instantly thinking of An American Werewolf in London. A later scene showed me where the Tall Man’s jaw-dropping coffin carrying scene in Phantasm came from. Count Orlok’s appearance obviously inspired Barlow’s look in Salem’s Lot nearly 60 years later. And, of course, Max Schreck was Christopher Walken’s character’s name in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. The list goes on and on.


Nosferatu’s film rights are murky, as with all media of this age. It is considered public domain in the United States, but not in Europe. You can watch it on Shudder if you’re a subscriber. A 2-Disc Special Edition Blu-ray seems to be the definitive version. However you watch it, make sure the music’s loud and the lights are low. “Go quickly, travel safely, my young friend, to the land of ghosts.” It still holds up today, even after 95 years.

About Kenn Hoekstra

PopHorror Writer. Associate Editor. @PopHorrorNews Tweeter. Also... Screenwriter. Blogger. Horror Movie Aficionado. Wisconsin Sports Fan. IT Guy. Father. Smartass. People's Champion. TIME Person of the Year - 2006.

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